As David and I sat in the screening room at Walt Disney Studios waiting for Gnomeo & Juliet to begin, a woman in the back of the theater had already decided on her review. “This is going to be just hilarious. And brilliant.” She said twice to those around her. At first, David and I weren’t sure what to think. Was she a plant by the studio sent to put ideas in our heads? Probably not, but it was still amusing to hear her rave about a movie she had yet to see.
The lights dimmed, the film began, and the opening second of the film must have tickled this woman immensely because she chortled several times. And then, she stopped. That was the last time we heard a peep from her.
Gnomeo & Juliet takes place in a world where garden gnomes and various other yard decorations are at war. There are the blues and the red; each inhabits the yards of two warring neighbors. It’s forbidden for red and blues to interact, so this causes problems for the star-crossed gnomes in our story.
The film is a mix of Toy Story antics and Shrek-level adult humor, but both have a hard time living in the same universe. In fact, one of the issues the film has is the constant barrage of sight gags and one-liners that shove the love story to the back burner for most of the film. If the movie had been titled War of the Gnomes it would have worked just as well.
While there are some clever gags and some funny moments, Gnomeo & Juliet can’t overcome its lazy approach to storytelling. It relies so often on visual jokes and eye-rolling puns that it becomes tiresome faster than it should. While I did laugh several times, I had no investment or connection with any of the characters in the film.
Gnomeo & Juliet does improve slightly as it progresses; however it’s the first third of the film that fails to capture the imagination of the audience or empathy for its two leads. I didn’t care if they got together, and I think the main reason was I knew how the movie would end: they would end up together and everyone would live happily ever after. They are ceramic garden gnomes after all.
The tone of the film is very rude and brusque, which is a staple of British comedy. I’m a big fan of British humor, but in the context of a film that will be seen primarily by kids it was a little off-putting.
The voice cast is impressive and includes James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Patrick Stewart, Dolly Parton, Hulk Hogan, Michael Caine, Stephen Merchant, and Ozzy Osbourne. Unfortunately, their presence doesn’t add much to the film as a whole, but it will cause plenty whispers of “Who’s voice is that?” throughout the theater.
The film is also very heavy on Elton John songs, which made me believe that the producers were either huge Elton John fans or he had a hand in the making of the film. Sure enough Sir Elton John is a producer on the film. If you enjoy his music, you’ll hear plenty of it throughout the movie.
While he animation is well done, it can’t compensate for the lackluster story and the mediocre jokes that plague the film. It’s definitely a hit-and-miss movie when it comes to the humor, and there are many more misses than hits.
My advice, if you really want to see the movie, is to rent it on DVD or Blu-ray. Like the woman in the back of the theater, you may laugh and first, but after a while all you may hear from yourself is dead silence.
Gnomeo & Juliet is in theaters February 11, 2011.
If you did see it, what did you think? Leave a comment and let us know!
Check out David’s review of the movie below: